Launched by the United Kingdom's Crafts Council as part of their efforts to nurture the country’s crafts industry, London’s Collect Art Fair is gearing up for its 13th edition from 2-6 February at the Saatchi Gallery. In addition to showcasing crafts in all its myriad forms, from ceramics to glass, jewellery to textiles, this year’s edition includes a special focus on the craftsmanship of artists from the Middle East.
The Collect fair's chief aim is to challenge the lingering misconceptions that craft is the poor relation to art, somehow dowdy and obsolete in the modern world. As the pieces exhibited by the Sharjah-headquartered Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council illustrate, sometimes the modernisation of traditional crafts can aid society, by helping local artisans adapt to the 21st century and inspiring a future generation of creatives. The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council was established as part of the NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, with the central aim of empowering women both economically and socially through craft.
"Part of our role is to elevate and showcase the crafts, by working with designers and artists such as those chosen to take part in Collect, through to the more traditional artisans, where we are assisting them to modernise their skills and designs to create a sustainable and economically viable future," says Dana Al Sadek, who is curating Irthi’s Collect showcase.
"By opening up new markets, both internationally and in the GCC, for these designers and artisans, we not only get to showcase the skills and remarkable talents of the UAE, but act as a catalyst for creating real business opportunities and longer-term economic empowerment," she adds.
All the chosen works that are set to go on display in February in London hope to inspire audiences by giving them an insight into the rich heritage of the UAE, both past and present. They include Misnad, pictured, a wool carpet, hand-woven in Afghanistan, by Dubai-based Emirati designer Aljoud Lootah, a modern interpretation of the geometric patterns of traditional AlSadu weaving.
In highlighting the nomadic Bedouin lifestyle that is intertwined with the nation's historic narrative, the items create a powerful image of the importance that craftsmanship has always had, and will continue to have, within Emirati culture.
Collect runs from 2-6 February at the Saatchi Gallery, London. For more information, visit Craftscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/collect